by Tim Manns
Here’s a quick overview of some notable developments since June’s Conservation Report and a bit about several new issues.
Of all the challenges facing birds none is more significant than climate change (Survival by Degrees: 389 Bird Species on the Brink | Audubon), so it’s important to first mention President Biden’s signing of the Inflation Reduction Act (H.R. 5376) on August 17th . While not sufficient in itself to halt the worsening effects of climate change, the act offers hope that we’re capable of taking the bold steps needed to limit the damage.
Addressing climate change requires an all-of-the-above approach. Skagit County government has not generally seen it that way. However, the County Commissioners did react to concerted public criticism that the draft Shoreline Master Program (SMP) ignored climate change to at least amend the text to require “consideration” of such realities as sea level rise. Skagit Audubon and Audubon Washington participate in a coalition urging the county to make climate change considerations a requirement in Skagit County land use planning. The draft SMP is about to go to the Department of Ecology for review even while still significantly ignoring the best available science.
In July, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is not obligated to maximize revenue from state trust lands by timber cutting. Rather, DNR may manage public forests for multiple benefits and other ways of generating revenue for the trust beneficiaries. This decision could have relevance for the long-fought battle over protecting marbled murrelet habitat. Skagit Audubon has commented on this multiple times since 2012.
You may recall the April judgement against Washington State Parks on permitting Navy SEAL training in the parks. Skagit Audubon focused its earlier comments on the potential adverse impacts to birds, other wildlife, and the natural environment of the parks. In mid-June the deadline for an appeal passed without any filing by State Parks. Later in the summer a federal district court found for Washington State in its claim that the Navy’s environmental review of expanding the Growler fleet at Whidbey Naval Air Station was inadequate. Among the multiple failures the court cited was the insufficient analysis of impacts on birds. Skagit Audubon’s 2017 comment letter on the expansion pointed out the insufficiency of the environmental impact statements’ attention to the federal and state listed marbled murrelet.
In July, a new challenge to protecting some of the most important bird habitat in western Washington was thrust upon us when the state’s Commercial Aviation Coordination Commission included Samish and Skagit Flats among ten sites within 100 miles of Seattle to be considered for a large new airport. Skagit Audubon submitted a detailed comment letter, but it would be very helpful for members to also weigh in. Please go to Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission online open house | WSDOT (wa.gov), scroll down to “What’s New,” and click on “Greenfield locations.” If you would like suggested message points, email email@example.com and see Skagit Land Trust’s website: Land Trust News - Skagit Land Trust.
Lastly, in August Skagit Audubon sent the Department of Transportation comments on its study of how sites of court-ordered fish passage improvement along State Route 20 could also provide safe wildlife corridors under the highway. We urged them on.
For more detail and other issues Skagit Audubon is tracking, see the Conservation Notes on the chapter’s website (Skagit Audubon Society - Home) under the Conservation tab at the top of the page.